Romney visits Arbutus

Political signs and parked cars and trucks line the streets of an Arbutus neighborhood near the American Legion post where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared March 21. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / March 21, 2012)

By 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nancy Ehrlich had made sure her home on Dolores Avenue in Arbutus was looking its best.

After all, she wasn't sure whether former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who leads the current pack of candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, would be stopping by.

"We won't know until the last minute," she said casually of the visit that never happened.

That's how it was back in 2008, when her son, former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, and daughter-in-law, Kendel, swept into her home withSen. John McCain, the Republican presidential front runner at that time.

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The Secret Service had controlled everything about McCain's visit, and Nancy Ehrlich assumed that would be the case again, if a Romney visit were to happen.

"They're certainly welcome if they want to come by," she said of the Romney camp, which was scheduled to host a town hall meeting hours later at the Dewey Lowman American Legion Post 109 just down Sulphur Spring Road — the same place where McCain spoke in 2008.

Ehrlich seemed gracious about the opportunity to host Romney in her home but not overly excited.

Indeed, throughout Arbutus on Wednesday, there seemed to be no small-town hysteria over the big-time political attention.

The spotlight is all too familiar.

It came with the territory, so to speak, a decade ago, as soon as hometown kid Bob Ehrlich became the state's first Republican governor in more than three decades.

Last October, Ehrlich was named chairman of Romney's campaign in Maryland, and when Romney's plan to stop through Arbutus was later announced, it hardly caused ripples in town.

It was just another example of Ehrlich's reputation and status in the Republican party in Maryland, said Terry Nolan, a local lawyer and former president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association.

"You have a hometown hero, who has world-class Republican political connections and who apparently has a gift for picking the winning candidate months in advance," Nolan said of the former Maryland governor. "When those things come together, it results in visits like this."

Not that people, including Nolan's wife, Patti Sue Nolan, the ABPA's current president, don't appreciate the attention.

"It's kind of cool that this little lost-in-time town is the center of the universe," she said. "I'd much rather be in the spotlight for Mitt Romney coming here than for someone being stabbed or something like that."

Clam Kaikis, owner of Paul's Restaurant in town and a local politico in his own right, said the attention is not unexpected, but is appreciated.

"I'm happy to hear that we're going to get a little spotlight on our town today, the little town that has one ramp off and one ramp on," he said. "We're going to get shined on."

Event creates traffic, draws crowd

Because of security measures and the influx of vehicles to the American Legion post, traffic backed up on Sulphur Spring Road and Benson Avenue long before Romney was supposed to speak at 4 p.m.

Local residents and others who had to park blocks away from the post's Old Sulphur Spring Road location walked, some at a fast clip, eager to hear Romney speak.